1654 – Hitting The Ceiling with Wolf’s Edge Integrators’ Ben Wolf

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the Founder and CEO of Wolf's Edge Integrators, Ben Wolf.

Ben is a successful entrepreneur and the author of the groundbreaking book “Fractional Leadership: Landing Executive Talent You Thought Was Out of Reach.” His journey from a corporate bankruptcy attorney to a healthcare startup and eventually founding his firm is inspiring.

Ben's experience scaling a business from a handful of people to over 100 employees has given him a unique perspective on entrepreneurs' challenges. His insights led him to write the first book on fractional executive leadership and start a podcast in this niche, making him a pioneer in this field.

Ben shed light on the concept of fractional leadership. He described it as a solution to the “entrepreneurial catch 22” – a situation where businesses reach a point where their old strategies no longer work, but they can't afford experienced talent to help them evolve.

This is where fractional executives come in. They provide businesses with access to experienced talent part-time, helping them navigate their growth challenges. Ben further explained the indicators that suggest a business might benefit from fractional leadership.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Ben's background and experience in fractional leadership
  • Explanation of fractional leadership and its benefits for businesses
  • Indicators that suggest a business could benefit from fractional leadership
  • Example of an HVAC company with a low-functioning leadership team
  • Overview of Ben's book “Fractional Leadership: Landing Executive Talent You Thought Was Out of Reach”
  • Mention of Ben's podcast “The Win-Win Podcast” for small and mid-sized business owners

About Ben Wolf:

Ben Wolf is a renowned international speaker specializing in the entrepreneurial scaling of businesses. Often referred to as the “godfather” of fractional executive leadership, he has played a pivotal role in popularizing and advancing the outsourced, part-time executive leadership industry.

As the founder and CEO of Wolf's Edge Integrators, the world's largest fractional COO firm, he has provided executive talent and expertise to businesses seeking growth and operational excellence.

Ben's expertise and insights have reached a broader audience through his bestselling book, “Fractional Leadership: Landing Executive Talent You Thought Was Out of Reach.” Additionally, he hosts the well-received Win Win Podcast, further contributing to disseminating valuable business knowledge and strategies. His impactful work continues to inspire and support entrepreneurs worldwide.

About Wolf's Edge Integrators:

Wolf's Edge Integrators is a distinctive team comprising individuals with a rare blend of skills and qualities. These exceptional individuals must have experience in running companies, embody a Founder's drive, and possess a unique ability to collaborate with visionaries while maintaining a results-oriented mindset.

Thriving on orchestrating chaos, they find vigor in this process rather than exhaustion. Their commitment to iterative transformation is a defining trait.

Ben Wolf, the founder, has detailed their essence in the Amazon bestseller “Fractional Leadership: Landing Executive Talent You Thought Was Out of Reach.” Geared toward weary business owners and Integrators who possess founder-like zeal, this book encapsulates the vision.

The rigorous selection process empowers us to guarantee a full refund within the initial 30 days if our commitment falters—a testament to their caliber.

About Fractional Leadership LLC:

Fractional Leadership LLC is a distinguished professional association and community catering to all types of fractional executives, including firm owners, solo practitioners, and members of firms.

The organization was established to address the lack of a centralized resource in the fractional executive leadership industry, providing valuable information and support to fractional executives and business owners seeking insights into this field.

As the market leader for the Fractional Leadership industry, this organization offers a range of essential services, including professional development opportunities, networking connections, peer advisory support, and advocacy for both solo practitioners and firms engaged in fractional executive roles.

Fractional Leadership LLC plays a crucial role in advancing the knowledge, expertise, and success of professionals within the fractional executive leadership domain by fostering a collaborative and supportive environment.

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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Fractional Leadership LLC website at

Check out Fractional Leadership LLC on LinkedIn at

Check out Fractional Leadership LLC on Facebook at

Check out Wolf's Edge Integrators website at

Check out Wolf's Edge Integrators on LinkedIn at

Check out Ben Wolf on LinkedIn at

Check out Ben Wolf on Twitter at 

Check out Ben Wolf on Facebook at 

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence com and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. Ben Wolf. Ben, you are the author of the book Fractional Leadership Landing Executive Talent You thought was out of Reach. You are the founder and CEO of Wolf's Edge Integrators, and you're also a fellow podcast host. You're the. Your show is called Win Win an Entrepreneurial Community. Ben, it's great to have you.

Ben (00:01:15) - Thanks so much. Josh Great to have, great to be had and nice to meet you.

Josh (00:01:19) - Well, I kind of shared the highlight reels. Go ahead and or, you know, I guess I kind of drew on a coloring book. The lines go ahead and color all that in for us and in your work today.

Ben (00:01:30) - Well, it's definitely had a winding road, I guess, professionally. You know, I was at one point corporate bankruptcy attorney for a number of years at a big Manhattan law firm, after which I ended up joining a health care startup, which is kind of a long story, how that ended up happening because it's kind of a left turn, but grew that business from startup, from founding to over 130 people into the largest agency of its type in New York State. It's kind of where I got my personal start in the entrepreneurial world because, you know, didn't really have it before that already after age 40. And and so just learned a huge amount from, you know, running a business at, you know, a couple of people to five people to 10 to 50 to over 100 people.

Ben (00:02:18) - And you know, in the largest agency, like I said, if it's type in the state. So just learned a huge amount from that, spent time as a CEO at another health care company and then went out on my own as fractional CEO or fractional integrator to start it off as a solo practice, ultimately turned that into a firm, Wolf said. Generators, which now has is now the largest SEO firm, fractional SEO firm in the world. And and, you know, started the podcast along the way, wrote the book on fractional executive leadership, the first book that actually had been written on that industry, which I was surprised about when I wrote it. But, you know, so just kind of found my place in this in this space of the fractional executive world.

Josh (00:02:59) - Yeah. So give me, you know, and of course, you know, your book is doing quite well on Amazon. Again, it's called Fractional Leadership Landing. Executive talent you thought was out of reach. Talk about that concept.

Josh (00:03:11) - Why? Why? You know, how fractional leadership or approaching fractional leadership gives you perhaps better outcomes?

Ben (00:03:21) - Sure. It's you know, it's basically a response to what I call the entrepreneurial catch 22 that that business owners experience, which is you've gotten past the startup gauntlet, you've sat in all the seats, you've been maximally agile. But at some point when you in your growth, you get to the point where what used to work is no longer working, you're hitting the ceiling and you've gotten big enough where you need more experienced talent, more experienced help, not just whoever you kind of have elevated from the from the start. And but you can't yet afford in order to continue growing, but you can't yet afford that experience talent till after you've already scaled. So you're kind of in between that entrepreneurial catch 22. So fractional executives using them is essentially a way of getting on experience talent that you couldn't afford full time, but you could still get vast majority of the benefit of that, even at a smaller scale to help you get to that larger scale.

Ben (00:04:19) - So that's essentially having people sit in a role, whether it's marketing, sales, operations, finance people, technology, it's on your org chart. That's a there's a role in the business where they're just fulfilling that role on a fractional basis.

Josh (00:04:33) - Yeah. Which we my influence, we happen to work with a lot of fractional leaders and we kind of help them match them up with opportunities or jobs and that sort of thing or just kind of high level networking. But talk about this from a I guess if someone is considering or maybe this might be a good route to go to to attract in or bring in a fractional CEO, where should they be in business, you know that or what indicators might they see that they say, you know what, I heard a podcast and Ben Wolfe was being interviewed. That guy was pretty smart. I think just based on what I heard and kind of what's going on around here, I think I need to have a conversation with Ben. What, like what might be going on in their life that that they need to really take a serious look at bringing in a fractional or fractional leadership.

Ben (00:05:27) - Yeah, well, typically, you're just you're feeling a lot of frustration. You're you're, you know, you have morale issues, retention issues with the team, people getting frustrated, you getting frustrated, you as the business owner feeling like you have to always be intervening. Nothing moves forward without your intervention, without your kind of babysitting and pulling and pushing and tugging everybody forward, you know, lacking, right people in the right seats. There's a lot of frustration. You need help. Someone that's actually, again, built teams, built systems got right, people in the right seats, identify the right structure for your organization That's going to get it to the next ten level that you want it to get to, not just where it is now. And so I guess feeling like you've tried a bunch of stuff, it's not working. You're hitting your head against the wall and you just need someone who's actually done this before to help. And again, that could be, as you said, with the CEO, more for the business in general, or it could be, you know, overseeing all the functions of the business.

Ben (00:06:27) - Or it could be that it's more focused, your frustration is more focused on marketing. Maybe you need a fractional CMO. You can't afford to hire a full time CMO because it cost you 250, 300,000 or more plus bonus and benefits and everything else. But you need someone with that level of smarts and experience so you can get a fractional CMO and they can oversee your marketing team, the lower level people or your agency or your other outsourced resources. Or the same thing with sales sales leadership, You can get experienced fractional executive sales leader to manage your sales team, set up their processes, their metrics, train them, get them up leveled. It's a much better solution than what people often do is, which is hire the best individual contributor from your team, hire the best salesperson, let's say is your manager, who doesn't have any management skills or experience, and then just creates even more frustration. And not only that, now you lost your greatest salesperson as a as a full time resource. The same thing applies to finance with a CFO or any of those other roles.

Ben (00:07:29) - You're hitting the ceiling. You need someone more experienced, but you can't afford full time. That's sort of the trigger of the indicator.

Josh (00:07:35) - Are there any are there some things maybe we might want to take care of first before starting to have serious conversations? In other words, I don't know that you necessarily want to bring in a fractional CEO is like, you're not ready for me. Like, I'm just wondering if there's any table setting we need to do before we bring our guest in?

Ben (00:07:55) - Yeah, it's it's going to be like you need to have doers. Like they may not be able to be fully independent. Maybe you're managing them. But if it's a sales, you know, if it's a sales team, if you have no sales team and it's just sort of like you're bringing in a fractional sales leader, but there's no sales people, or you bring in a CMO, but there's no you know, there's no sales doer. I mean, there's no marketing doer. You bring us in, but there's no marketing doers, there's no social media people, content writers, you know, graphic designers, whatever.

Ben (00:08:26) - You don't have any of those resources. So you need some resources. And again, those could be outsourced resources when it comes to SEO, again, for, you know, if it's just you as like if you're a solopreneur, you're probably not ready for a CMO. Usually, typically clients are bringing in a fractional CEO, have a leadership team. You know, maybe they're underperforming, but they are a leadership team or a management team. So that's typically going to make it a lot more effective if you have people that those fractional executives can elevate, train and and create accountability for and coach and level up.

Josh (00:09:03) - Yeah. And Ben, talk about specifically about like when someone's wants to have that conversation. What is your first conversation typically sound like when you're talking with a founder or CEO? That's overwork their way to, you know, the leadership mantle is a little bit too heavy on their own shoulders. How might you imagine kind of that was first 30 minute conversations going with them?

Ben (00:09:31) - Yeah, well, we do do educational conversations.

Ben (00:09:33) - So it's, you know, not really sales oriented, but just answering questions. But if we're talking to somebody who might potentially need this sort of help, we're talking about getting an understanding, first of all, of what their main issues and pain points are, where they want to go, and importantly, why that's important to them. What kind of life or what kind of business do they want to have? That's, you know, that that they will have when they solve these issues or when they get to their outcomes. I'll share a couple of examples just from people I'm talking with today. I'm talking to one law firm where there's five partners and there's just a lot of misalignment between the partners. People want different things out of the firm and it's just causing all kinds of conflict and chaos. And there's a lack of, I guess, more mature management below the partner level. So we're there to kind of mature that management, get the partners in alignment that was that would be sort of their goals.

Ben (00:10:24) - Another example is to talk to another Hvac service and installation company today that was that essentially just has a very low functioning leadership team. Like really everybody is kind of being babysat and supported and helped along with the crutches of the owner of the business kind of really there are other leadership team seats, but really he's just kind of supporting everybody and almost sitting in all the seats, even though there is a leadership team. So we need to get to the point of a self managing business of a independently functioning leadership team that each one owns their functions, whether that means up leveling the people in them or replacing those people and getting the right people in there. But either way, those are going to be some of the some of the focuses, you know, that comes out of those conversations, for example, that I mentioned.

Josh (00:11:15) - And your book, again, it's called Fractional Leadership Landing Executive Talent you thought was out of reach. It's on Amazon. Who needs to read this book? And what would you imagine the transformation that would take place when when they read this book?

Ben (00:11:32) - Well, anybody should read this book who is facing that frustration to that trigger that we talked about earlier in the conversation.

Ben (00:11:39) - They're hitting that entrepreneurial catch 22. They feel like they need more experience to help, but they can't afford to hire people like that full time. You want to know what it is? You're curious. What is it? Is it for you? How does it work? And I go into depth in the book on marketing, sales, operations, finance, technology. How exactly does it work? How much does it cost? How long does it last? Who is it good for? Who is it not good for what kind of fractional leader do you need? ET cetera. Answering all those questions. That's, I think I guess I would hope that people come away from it with a much better understanding about what it is because it seems strange. You know, you can outsource maybe a customer service team in India, but how can you outsource executive leadership on your leadership team? So it seems strange. And so the book just kind of explains, Hey, what exactly is it? How does it work? Any of the fractional leaders or executives of any type or listening to this or watching this? Also read the book? It's something you might want to give to your clients.

Ben (00:12:34) - Do a lot of the sales process before you even start working with them, because they'll you won't be starting from scratch. It won't seem as strange to them if you can kind of sell to them. There's actually a bulk sales link on the on on fractional leadership that people can get. And you know, I would hope people can get an understanding of whether it's for them or not and how to go about finding one if it is.

Josh (00:12:57) - Yeah. Hey, Ben. You know, before we kind of get into kind of making some direct connections, tell me about your podcast, because this is super easy. So to our friend that's listening right now, all you have to do is just search for the win win podcast and entrepreneurial community. Go ahead and hit subscribe so you can listen. But Ben, tell me, give us a little bit of a trailer for your podcast.

Ben (00:13:22) - Well, the trailer is that it's for business owners of small and mid-sized businesses. So it's not for solopreneurs, it's not for individuals or self-help or mindset type of things.

Ben (00:13:33) - It's for practical knowledge and information that is valuable to people who own businesses of, let's say, 10 to 250 people, somewhere in that range. There's all kinds of topics. There's anything that would be useful to people of that category. We actually we actually have on we just we just we just booked Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference is going to be featured guest in in a few weeks And so very much looking forward to that but some other some other great guests obviously as well.

Josh (00:14:01) - Yeah excellent Your website wolves edge we've definitely talked about who needs to be connecting with you and what kind of those initial conversations might be. But you know, when someone goes to your website, what would you recommend they do? Maybe they're listening to this podcast because they they're searching for you. They found it, Now they listen to they're like, okay, Ben, what is next?

Ben (00:14:24) - So what's next? I think the first most useful thing people can get from the website is go to wolf integrators. You'll see right at the top there, there's a guide called the How to Become a mostly Unneeded Boss, how to get a self managed Company.

Ben (00:14:40) - So there's a guide about ten, 15 pages that will put together of like insights that our clients have gotten and how to make their company self-managing, how to become a mostly unneeded boss. So I definitely recommend everybody, you know, if you want to continue the sort of knowledge or exploration after listening or watching this wolf stage get that become a mostly unneeded boss guide and I think that's going to be maximally helpful. And of course you could also explore the website. We've got a ton of information about what fractional integrators or fractional CEOs are, how it works, and of course to learn more if that is something that would add value for you or your business.

Josh (00:15:20) - Yeah. Excellent. So again, your website, Wolf's Edge You have a really cool looking PDF there. The mostly unneeded boss. You want to tell me just a little bit more about what's included in that that guide?

Ben (00:15:35) - So what's in there is five strategies that you can use that you should use if you want to not be that boss or that business owner who is just beset by frustration and always again pulling and pushing and babysitting everybody and having to micromanage and just having a overgrown job rather than a business.

Ben (00:16:00) - But how to turn your business from an overgrown job into a business, right? To become a mostly unneeded boss in that in that and that's an area we've got a great line at the top of the website. There's like an image in the back of a couple of professionals drinking coffee and the quote and the quote, Don't worry, I've got time. My business runs itself now. I mean, just the goal is to is to teach you techniques that are going to get the business to that point where you can have that kind of life and of course, still make the the profit and fulfill the mission for which you created your business in the first place.

Josh (00:16:33) - Yeah. Excellent. All right. So let's review here Wolf's edge that's the website win win the win win podcast entrepreneurial community. And then of course, your book and I'll have you close this out with the quick call to action on your book as well because that's an easy one. It's you don't have in an audio format yet, do you?

Ben (00:16:57) - Yeah, yeah.

Ben (00:16:58) - It's an audio paperback cover however you like to get your books. Fractional leadership lending executive telling you thought was out of reach can explore the concept see if that's for you understand what it is and you know honestly could change it could change your life to not make it so unattainable, to get like an experienced executive sitting in a role on your leadership team does not have to be as as insane as, you know, as like this $300,000 higher. You don't have to wait till you can afford that.

Josh (00:17:29) - Now start bringing in the big guns now and do it in a way that kind of fits within your budget and really what you need at these earlier stages. Again, it's called fractional leadership landing executive talent you thought was out of reach. Ben Wolf, it's been great having you one more time. Your your website, Wolf's Edge Integrators. Thanks for listening to the Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up My Influence slash guest.

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